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Will Sustainability Disrupt Barrier Coating Manufacturing?

According to a recent Smithers Pira report, sustainability efforts are having a major effect on barrier coating technologies.

Barrier coatings, which benefit packaging, especially in food and beverage applications, are experiencing change and substantial growth due to the focus on environmentally friendly materials. Barrier coatings are essential to the packaging industry for their ability to enhance the durability and safety of paper and paperboard.

Although research shows that currently dominant barrier coating technologies, such as advanced aqueous polymeric solutions and dispersions and polylactic acid (PLA), will retain market dominance in 2023, consumer demand for sustainability and environmental stewardship is causing a number of disruptive sustainable barrier coating technology trends to develop.

The Smithers Pira report "Sustainable Barrier Coatings in Paper and Board to 2023" examines leading barrier coating technologies, analyzes applications for paper and paperboard, and offers a forecast of future commercialization. According to Smithers Pira research, the 1,365 million ton demand for extrusion polymers in paper and board packaging in 2012 grew to 1,657 million tons in 2016, a 5 percent market growth, and is expected to reach 2,267 million tons by 2022, a 5.4 percent market growth. The market value is projected at US$4.2 billion.

Consumer demand, regulatory changes, and brand owner initiatives are spurring the demand for sustainable barrier coatings, causing the number of applications to grow.

Consumer and government influence
Corporations are listening to consumers to address sustainability by creating goals for source reduction (the minimization of waste) and reduction of greenhouse gases. According to Smithers Pira, 98 percent of industry experts said sustainability is important to defining corporate strategy and 90 percent believed that, in order for a product to be considered sustainable, it must be made from renewable materials and be recyclable—ideally, biodegradable with a low carbon footprint.

Because 100 percent of experts said that a sustainable product cannot be made from petroleum-derived materials, governments are establishing regulations designed to reduce reliance on petroleum-derived materials. To promote a more circular economy, new regulations are establishing bold targets for all packaging, including paper and paperboard. For example, many governments have imposed taxes and outright bans on the use of plastic bags.

New drop-in solutions
Manufacturers are increasingly re-examining their product designs and material choice to fit the demand for sustainability. Manufacturers of traditional petroleum-based barrier coatings, such as polypropylene (PP) and polyethylene (PE), are at risk from material substitution by the expanded use of recyclable, compostable/biodegradable, non-fossil-derived materials.

Emerging technologies that simplify the manufacturing process will also be viewed with great interest and may affect manufacturer operations. These changing factors have created an interesting dynamic between marketplace incumbents and emerging technologies, and has the potential to disrupt the entire value chain.

The use of bio-derived PLA or its blends, which degrade quickly, are being used as a substitute for PP in extrusion coating. The packaging market is seeing continued growth as simple 'drop-in' solutions are creating a new value chain within the industry. Technologies such as PLA-based aqueous coatings can now be applied on the paper machine, eliminating off-machine application of barrier systems and streamlining overall production methods.

Given technology development, consumer demand, brand owner and retailer commitment, and government regulatory changes, it's easy to imagine a disruptive transition of the industry within the next 5-10 years. The challenge will be developing truly sustainable barrier technologies that can meet the price elasticity of the commodity type market applications.

About the report:
The Smithers Pira report Sustainable Barrier Coatings in Paper and Board to 2023 ( explores this fluctuating market and provides a qualitative analysis of key drivers and application requirements. It also provides a comprehensive scoring and ranking for the 20 most significant technologies that will impact the sustainable coatings market for paper and board for the forecast period. TAPPI members receive a discount when ordering—use code TAPPI5.

For a modest investment of $174, receive more than US$ 1000 in benefits in return.
Visit for more details.